Behavioral Health Professionals and Smoking

How Behavioral Health Professionals Can Help Clients Quit Smoking

Tobacco use within populations with behavioral health conditions is a critical health disparity. Individuals living with behavioral health conditions are dying 25 years earlier than the general population. The major causes of death are tobacco related cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.1

Unfortunately, there continues to be a misconception that patients with behavioral health conditions lack the desire and ability to stop their tobacco use as well as a belief that individuals who quit tobacco will experience an increase in psychiatric symptoms.2 As a result, many providers focus solely on behavioral health symptom management over preventive health measures.

The reality is that people with mental illness and substance use disorders want to quit smoking and can quit successfully.  And behavioral health professionals can help. Tobacco cessation is a key component of many individuals’ recovery and should be a priority issue for every healthcare provider.

In this section, we’ll address tobacco use among persons with behavioral health conditions, some common myths about smokers with behavioral health conditions, and provide some tools and resources for helping this population quit successfully, including:


1 Colton, C. W. & Manderscheid, R. W. (2006). Congruencies in increased mortality rates, years of potential life lost, and causes of death among public mental health clients in eight states. Preventing Chronic Disease, 3(2).

2 Prochaska, J. J. (2010). Failure to treat tobacco use in mental health and addiction treatment settings: A form of harm reduction? Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 110(3), 177- 182.

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